|Other names||Manu Sharma|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
|Parent(s)||Venod Sharma (father)
Shakti Rani Sharma (mother)
|Motive||Refusal to be served alcohol|
|Conviction(s)||18 December 2006|
Siddharth Vashisht (born 1977), better known as Manu Sharma, is a convicted murderer, serving life imprisonment for the 1999 murder of model Jessica Lal. Sharma is the son of the former Indian National Congress minister Venod Sharma.
Manu Sharma is one of several high-profile criminals brought to trial in India through media activism. Along with that of some other murderers, his conviction is viewed as demonstrating the impact of the general public in correcting imbalances in the Indian legal process.
Sharma was born in 1977 to Venod Sharma and Shakti Rani Sharma. His father was a member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha in the 1990s, elected on an Indian National Congress ticket. He was later elected to the Haryana legislature. His uncle is the son-in-law of former President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma. The family owns two sugar mills, at Indri in Haryana, and Patran in Punjab.
Sharma suffers from asthma and for this reason was favoured during his childhood. He was educated at the elite Mayo College in Ajmer. He then completed two years of undergraduate courses in Commerce at a college in Chandigarh. Sharma initially thought of completing an MBA, but he joined the family business instead. His father then directed him to manage the family mill at Bhadson in Karnal.
On 22 April 2015, Sharma married his friend in a low-profile ceremony at his residence in Chandigarh. It is said that they knew each other for ten years and the marriage was delayed due to conviction.
Murder and conviction
In the late 1990s, Sharma was known to be a regular party-goer in Delhi. On 29 April 1999, he was present at a party where an unlicensed bar was operating. Jessica Lal refused to serve him, despite being offered 1000 rupees, and Sharma then fired a .22 pistol and killed her. Sharma was arrested and charged with murder, destruction of evidence and other offences. During the trial, 32 witnesses turned "hostile". Seven years after the case was opened, on 21 February 2006, Sharma and eight others of the twelve accused were acquitted. The trial judge commented after the outcome that
The court has acquitted them because the Delhi police failed to sustain the grounds on which they had built up their case. The police failed to recover the weapon which was used to fire at Jessica Lal as well as prove their theory that the two cartridges, emptied shells of which were recovered from the spot, were fired from one weapon.
After his acquittal by the trial court, Sharma was ostracised, with SMS campaigns being sent out to boycott all establishments that the Sharmas had owned. The acquittal led to widespread public outcry. In March 2006, the case was re-admitted in the Delhi High Court where it was tried on a fast-track basis. Among the evidence re-introduced were two spent cartridges recovered from Sharma's car, the ballistic analysis for one of which showed it as matching the bullet recovered from Lal's skull. This evidence had been overlooked by the trial court. On 18 December 2006, The High Court ruled Sharma guilty of murdering Jessica Lal and sentenced him to life imprisonment. After conviction, he was imprisoned in the Tihar Jail. Sharma appealed to the Supreme Court of India through his counsel Ram Jethmalani. However, the Court upheld his sentence of life imprisonment on 19 April 2010.
Sharma was incarcerated in the Tihar Jail along with the co-accused Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill, who had been sentenced for destroying evidence. Along with another high-profile convict, Santosh Kumar Singh, Sharma is involved in helping other prisoners draft legal appeals.
On 24 September 2009 Delhi Lieutenant Governor granted Sharma 30-day parole from jail, on the grounds that he needed to attend to his ailing mother, attend the last rites of his grandmother and also look after the family business which was suffering in his absence. But, the basis for the parole was proved unfounded as Sharma's grandmother had already died in 2008. During the second extension of the parole for another 30 days, Sharma was seen partying in a discothèque in Delhi. His mother, whose illness was also the basis for the parole, was seen at a media briefing promoting a ladies cricket tournament at his family-run hotel in Chandigarh. It was also later revealed that the parole was granted despite an objection from the Delhi police.
In November 2009, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit came under criticism for granting parole to Sharma after media reports of him visiting night clubs in Delhi emerged. During the parole he got involved in a brawl with the son of police commissioner of Delhi. After a public uproar that he violated parole norms, the Delhi Government had to cancel his parole and on 10 November 2009, Sharma returned to Tihar Jail after violation of his parole was confirmed.
While imprisoned Sharma established the Siddhartha Vashishta Charitable Trust, which is managed by his mother and brother. According to The Times of India, the trust is intended to assist causes such as" child education, cancer awareness, [and] rehabilitation of prisoners etc." By July 2011 it had provided assistance to at least 130 children of prison inmates.
Sharma was granted five days' parole in November 2011 in order to attend the wedding of his younger brother. The parole restricted his movements to the cities of Karnal, Chandigarh and Ambala and prevented him from visiting any night club.
- No One Killed Jessica, a 2011 Indian political crime thriller film based on the Murder of Jessica Lal case
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- "Paroled, reveller Manu Sharma to be out again". The Hindustan Times. 16 November 2011. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
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- Sharma, Suruchi (21 September 2011). "Manu Sharma's trust saves a 3-year-old". Times of India. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
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- "Manu Sharma granted parole for five days". Times of India. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Delhi HC grants parole to Manu Sharma, serving life for Jessica Lal killing". The Hindu. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Jessica Lal murder case: Manu Sharma gets nine-day parole". The Hindu. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- "Jessica Lall murder case: Manu Sharma gets 30 days parole". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
|Wikinews has related news: New Delhi: Video shows witnesses in the Jessica Lall murder case being bribed|